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Mirror Of The Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Bonaventure

CHAPTER XV

MARY IS BLESSED BY THE SEVEN VIRTUES AGAINST THE SEVEN CAPITAL VICES

Blessed art thou among women. Let us still speak of the blessing of our 
Blessed Virgin, let us still hear of it. Happy is the Blessed Mary; unhappy 
is every accursed soul to whom it shall be said: "Depart from me, ye 
cursed, into everlasting fire!" Cursed without doubt is every sinful soul, 
but blessed art thou, O virtuous Mary. The world incurred malediction by 
the seven capital vices; but Mary obtained blessing by the contrary 
virtues. Blessed, therefore, art thou among women, O Mary. Blessed by 
humility against pride, by charity against envy, by meekness against anger, 
by diligence against sloth, by temperance against gluttony, by chastity 
against lust.

First let us hear how Mary is blessed by humility against pride. For the 
proud are accursed, as it is written: "Thou hast rebuked the proud; cursed 
are they who decline from thy ways." Against this curse of pride Mary 
obtained the blessing of humility. Thus she may be signified by that valley 
of which it is said in Paralipomenon: "They called that place the valley of 
blessing" (2 Paralip. XX, 6.) If every humble soul is, as it were, a valley 
of God, according to that word of Isaias, "Every valley shall be filled," 
how much more was Mary a valley, who was so deep in humility! What wonder 
if she were the valley of valleys, who was the most humble of the humble? 
Oh, how greatly is this blessed valley exalted with blessings for her 
humility, so deep, so useful, so pleasing! St. Augustine says: "O truly 
blessed humility of Mary, who brought forth the Lord to men, gave life to 
mortals, renewed the heavens, purified the world, opened paradise, and 
delivered the souls of men from hell." The deeper a valley is, the more is 
it a receptacle for waters; so was Mary for graces. A valley receives 
irrigation by waters, sometimes from above, sometimes from below; from 
above, when the rains flow down from the mountains; from below, when there 
are springs of water in it. In like manner the humble Mary received waters, 
as it were, both from above and from below; she was, as it were, irrigated 
from a mountain and from a spring, when from the divine and from the human 
nature of her Son so great a blessing of graces was poured into her. This 
is that blessing of which we read in the Book of Judges, when Axa said to 
her father: "Give me a blessing." Her father gave her a place well watered 
from above and from below. Axa was a type of Mary, who received a well-
watered blessing from the heavenly Father. For God the Father gave her a 
blessing from above in the divinity of Christ, and from below in His 
humanity; again from above in her mind, and from below in her womb; from 
above in her charity to God, from below in her love for her neighbor; again 
from above in contemplation, from below, in action. Or the heavenly Father 
gave her an ineffable blessing, from above in Heaven, from below on earth, 
that in Heaven she might possess the blessing of glory, and on earth that 
of grace; and thus be blessed both in Heaven and on earth, according to 
what St. Bernard intimates when he says: "Remember, O Mary, that Christ 
bore the malediction of the cross, who blessed thee, His Mother, in Heaven. 
But thou wert blessed also on earth by the Angel, and art rightly called 
blessed on earth by all generations."

Secondly, let us hear how Mary is blessed for charity against envy. The 
envious are accursed, as it is said of the envious Cain: "Cursed art thou 
upon earth, which has opened its mouth, and received the blood of thy 
brother from thy hand." Against the curse of envy, Mary has received the 
blessing of charity. She may well, therefore, be signified by Sara, of whom 
the Lord said: "I will bless her, and out of her I will give thee a son, 
whom I will bless" (Gen. XVII, 16.) Sara is interpreted as "coal." This is 
well suited to Mary, who, like a coal, was on fire with the ardor of 
charity. Therefore, the burning bush is a fit figure of Mary, by whom the 
blessing of grace is ministered to every faithful soul. It is said in 
Deuteronomy: "The blessing of him, who appeared in the bush, may it come 
upon the head of Joseph." Joseph is interpreted as "increase," and 
signifies every faithful soul enriched by divine grace. Blessed is the 
bush, and blessed is He who by His Incarnation appeared in the bush, by 
whom so great a blessing came upon the faithful. O truly blessed coal, 
producing so blessed a flame, blessed Mary bringing forth so blessed a 
Child. "From her," saith the Lord, "I will give thee a son, whom I will 
bless" (Gen. XVII, 16.) Think, therefore, what great charity Mary had 
towards God, when God is her Son according to the flesh. Think also what 
charity she had towards her neighbor, when the good neighbor is spiritually 
her son. And if we are her sons, we are the brethren of her Son. Well, 
therefore, doth St. Anselm say of this blessed Mother: "O blessed and 
exalted one, not for thyself alone, but also for us, what is it, how great 
is it, how lovable, what we see happening by thee for us, which, seeing, I 
rejoice, which, rejoicing, I dare not utter ? For if thou, O Lady, art the 
Mother of God, are not thy other sons the brethren of God?"

Thirdly, hear how Mary is blessed for her meekness and gentleness against 
anger. For the angry are accursed, as it is written in Genesis: "Cursed be 
their fury, for it was stubborn: and their wrath, because it was cruel" 
(Gen. XLIX, 7.) Against this curse of wrath, Mary obtained the blessing of 
meekness. For truly her meekness was such that not only had she no anger of 
her own, but she even turned the anger of God to meekness. Therefore, she 
is well signified by Abigail, to whom David said: "Blessed be thy speech, 
and blessed be thou, who hast kept me to-day from coming to blood and 
revenging me with my own hand" (I Kings XXV, 32.) It is the property of 
meekness to soothe with kind words the anger of those who are offended, 
according to that word of Proverbs: "A mild word turneth away anger" (Prov. 
XV, 1.) The meek Abigail signifies the meek Mary. Do you wish to know how 
meek Mary was? Listen to St. Bernard: "Turn over," he says, "diligently in 
your mind the whole of the Gospel story, and if you note in Mary anything 
of rebuke, anything hard, or even the slightest sign of indignation, you 
may perhaps suspect her in other things, and fear to approach her. But if 
you find that in all things she was rather full of grace and loving 
kindness, full of meekness and mercy, give thanks to Him who with such kind 
compassion has provided thee with such a mediatrix, in whom thou hast 
nothing to fear." David signifies Christ, who by Mary's meekness is soothed 
and placated, lest He should take vengeance on the sinner by eternal death. 
Let every soul in danger of eternal death never cease to sigh to Mary in 
her great meekness, for which she is rightly so blessed. I say, therefore: 
Let every soul about to die say with St. Anselm: "O thou blessed above 
women, who conquerest the angels by thy purity, surpassest the Saints by 
thy loving kindness, let my dying soul sigh at the sight of such great 
kindness; but let it blush at such resplendent whiteness."

Fourthly, hear how Mary is blessed by her diligence against sloth. For the 
slothful are accursed, because they do not do the work of God faithfully 
and earnestly. Jeremias says: "Cursed is he who doth the work of God 
negligently." Against the curse of torpor, Mary deserted the blessing of 
earnestness. For she may be signified by that Jahel, who killed Sisara with 
a nail. Therefore, in the Book of Judges it says: "Blessed is Jahel among 
women." Jahel is interpreted as "going up," which suits Mary, who did not, 
like the slothful, go down, but most earnestly always ascended from virtue 
to virtue, from a lower to a higher grade, according to that word of the 
Canticle: "Who is this who cometh up from the desert, like a rod of 
incense?" What has this blessed Jahel done? She killed Sisara with a nail. 
Sisara is interpreted as "the shutting out of joy," and well does this 
signify the devil, because he himself, being shut out from eternal joy, 
tries also to keep others out of it. Alas, yes, by means of the first 
mother of the human race he excluded all of us, and the curse of this 
exclusion was lifted by the Mother of our Savior. Well, therefore, does the 
Venerable Bede say: "Blessed art thou among women, by whose virginal 
bringing forth the curse of the first mother was excluded from those born 
of women." But what is signified by the nail wherewith the head of Sisara 
was pierced? What is this nail but severity of discipline? What is 
strictness of life to the lazy, but a sort of nail through the eyes ? 
Strictness of discipline is, as it were, a nail painfully transfixing the 
devil, and sharply wounding him. The blessed Jahel, therefore, pierced the 
head of Sisara with that deathdealing nail, while the blessed Mary 
extinguished in herself the strength of Satan by strictness of discipline. 
Blessed, therefore, is Jahel among women, blessed is Mary among women. 
Among which women ? Listen to Bede, who says: "Not only art thou blessed 
among women, but among women who are blessed thou art eminent by a greater 
blessing."

Fifthly, hear how blessed is Mary by her liberality against avarice. For 
the avaricious are accursed, as St. Peter says: "Having their heart 
exercised with covetousness, children of malediction" (2 Pet. II, 14. ) 
Against this curse of avarice, Mary merited the blessing of generosity and 
profusion. For she was like a fountain ever flowing and ever giving, and 
therefore was truly blessed, according to that word: "Let thy vein be 
blessed" (Prov. V, 18.) In temporal things Mary, that vein, was more than 
generous, because she generously and liberally despised all things. 
Therefore, according to Haymon, the Blessed Mother of God had the moon 
beneath her feet because she despised all temporal things. Oh, how great 
graces have flowed on to men by means of this vein I Therefore, O Church, 
thy vein be blessed, by whom so great good gifts have come to thee. Truly a 
noble vein, a vein full of the Holy Ghost, a vein the fountain of life; 
Mary is to us a vein of salvation. For by this vein Christ, the fountain of 
life, came to us, and by this vein we come to Jesus Christ, who is the 
fountain of life; truly, therefore, is it blessed. St. Bernard says: "By 
thee, O blessed finder of grace, we have access to God, Mother of life, 
Mother of salvation, that by thee He may receive us, who by thee was given 
to us."

Sixthly, hear how Mary is blessed by temperance against gluttony. For the 
gluttons are accursed, as it appears in the greediness of our first 
parents, for which both they and the whole human race incurred a curse. 
Against this curse of gluttony Mary obtained the blessing of abstinence and 
of every kind of temperance. Rightly indeed, in opposition to the curses of 
gluttony in the material paradise, did the blessings of temperance abound 
in the spiritual paradise, according to that word of Ecclesiasticus: "Grace 
is like paradise in blessings." So great an abundance of grace was in Mary 
that she, the gracious Virgin, might almost be called grace itself. This 
grace, that is, the most gracious Virgin Mary, was as a paradise in 
blessings. For as in the material paradise the gluttony of Eve merited the 
curses of punishments, so in the spiritual paradise the temperance of Mary 
merited the blessings of graces. Therefore Augustine says: "The curse of 
Eve was turned into the blessing of Mary." As the gluttony of Eve brought 
forth a curse not only in the body, but also in the soul, so Mary obtained 
for us a blessing not only in the body, but also in the soul; not a 
spiritual blessing alone, but likewise a corporeal one. The malediction of 
the greedy Eve was to bring forth in pain; the blessing of the temperate 
Mary was to bring forth without pain, as St. Bernard says: "Blessed art 
thou among women, thou who hast escaped that general curse, in which it is 
said: 'In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children,' and yet at the same time 
too that other, 'Cursed is the sterile in Israel'; and thou hast obtained a 
singular blessing, that thou shouldst neither remain sterile nor bring 
forth in sorrow."

Seventhly, let us hear how Mary is blessed by her chastity against lust. To 
the lustful it is said: "Cursed is he who shall sleep with the wife of his 
neighbor; and all the people shall say, Amen." Against this curse of 
incontinence, Mary merited the blessing of continence, as it may be 
signified in the Book of Judith, where we read: "They all blessed her with 
one voice, saying: Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of 
Israel, thou art the honor of our people: for thou hast done manfully, and 
thy heart has been strengthened because thou hast loved chastity, and after 
thy husband hast not known any other: therefore also the hand of the Lord 
hath strengthened thee, and therefore thou shalt be blessed for ever" 
(Judith XV, 10 f.)

In this blessing of the chaste Judith, the blessing of Mary may not only be 
signified, but by this passage we may pass to a higher conclusion. If such 
was the blessing of a chaste widow, how much more will be that of a chaste 
virgin? And above all, of such a virgin as merited to bring forth God, and 
to do this in such a manner as not to lose her virginity. Well therefore 
doth Bede say: "She is incomparably blessed, who both received the glory of 
the divine seed, and kept the crown of virginity." Note, however, that in 
Scripture we find a blessed wife, a blessed widow, and a blessed virgin. 
The blessed wife was Sara, of whom it is said in Tobias: "A blessing was 
pronounced over the wife of Tobias." The blessed widow was Judith, as we 
have pointed out. Of a blessed widow it is also said in the Psalm: 
"Blessing I will bless his widow." And the Blessed virgin was Mary, as the 
Angel testifies, saying: "Blessed art thou among women." She is blessed, 
therefore, because she was a wife; she is more blessed because she was a 
widow; she is blessed above all those who loved virginal chastity. She is 
blessed without doubt, who, like Sara and Susanna, was chaste in wedlock; 
she is more blessed, who, like Judith and Anna, was a chaste widow; she is 
blessed above all, who with Mary shall have been chaste as a virgin. 
Therefore St. Augustine says: "We praise Susanna as a model of conjugal 
chastity; but we prefer before her the virtue of the widow Anna, and much 
more that of the Virgin Mary." This is truly meet and just. It is just that 
she should be blessed who had known no other man than her husband; it is 
more just that she should be blessed who neither during her husband's life-
time nor after his death had known any man. It is meet and just that she 
should be blessed above all who neither knew her own, nor any other man, 
yet conceived a Man so supreme. Therefore St. Augustine exclaims: "O woman 
blessed above women, who knew no man, yet encompassed a man in her womb!"

Thus, therefore, was Mary deservedly blessed for her humility, for her 
charity, for her meekness, for her diligence, for her liberality, for her 
sobriety, for her chastity; she who was most excellent in humility, most 
rich in charity, most patient in meekness, most fervent in diligence, most 
temperate in sobriety, most continent in virginity. Thus, therefore, thou 
who art so manifoldly blessed, thou more than blessed Mary, let us pray 
that by thy blessing thou mayest free us wretched ones from every curse, 
and mayest make us worthy of the divine blessing, through Our Lord Jesus 
Christ. Amen.








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